Focus on the Family Broadcast

Building the Bridge to Forgiveness (Part 1 of 2)

Building the Bridge to Forgiveness (Part 1 of 2)

Dr. Gary Chapman explains how we can begin to heal any relationship by taking responsibility for our part of the problem and seeking forgiveness from both God and the other person. He explains how small injustices can create bricks in a wall between us and our loved one, and the place to start is tearing down the wall on our side. Dr. Chapman illustrates the concept of forgiveness through Bible verses and through descriptions of conflicts with his own wife and son. (Part 1 of 2)
Original Air Date: April 2, 2012


John Fuller: Today on Focus on the Family, Dr. Gary Chapman shares encouragement for those times when you might have some discord in a relationship.

Dr. Gary Chapman: God does not want you depressed for three months because you sinned against your spouse. He wants you to accept his forgiveness, get up, move on, do something good today.

End of Preview

John: You’ll learn how to do just that. And our host is Focus President, Jim Daly. Thanks for joining us. I’m John Fuller.

Jim Daly: John, we always enjoy having Dr. Chapman here in the studio, but today we’re featuring a prerecorded presentation about forgiveness. And this is for everyone who feels stuck, trying to mend a relationship, uh, be it with a spouse, a child, a boss, because there are things you can do on your side of the equation. Listen and see.

John: Dr. Chapman is, uh, probably best known for his series of books on The Five Love Languages. And this content is from his book, The Five Apology Languages. Here now, Dr. Gary Chapman speaking at Moody Bible Institute on today’s episode of Focus on the Family.

Dr. Chapman: Today, I want to speak on the topic of tearing down walls. There is no question, but what many marriages, many families, parent-child relationships, there are long thick, high walls that exist between the people involved. Now, how do walls get erected in relationships? I would suggest that they are erected one stone at a time. Now, when we got married, we didn’t have any walls between us. We were close, everything was wonderful. We could spend hours together and want more. Oh, when we went home, we wanted to go back. You remember those days? For those of you who are married, can you go back about three weeks before you got married. Do you remember, remember how happy you were going to be? Do you remember the dreams you had? You could hardly wait to get married. That’s the way I felt. I was 23 and I could hardly wait. Oh, to be as happy as I was going to be when I met that woman, and we could get together. Phew!

Dr. Chapman: But do you remember about three weeks after you were married? You guys remember the afternoon you came home and said to her, “Guess what, darling, I’m going to the game on Thursday night with the guys. You know, our team is on top.” And do you remember what you gals said, “Going to the game with the guys? You’re married.” And that’s the first time it dawned on him, what he’s done.

Audience: (laughs)

Dr. Chapman: And he said, “Well, you don’t think I’m gonna give up ball games just because we got married, do you?” And she said, “Well, no, but you’re gonna leave me at home all weekend.” And he said, “Well, you know, none of the guys are gonna take their wives.” And she said, “Yeah, they don’t have wives, except George, and he left his.” And then you remember what you did girls.

Audience: (laughs)

Dr. Chapman: Can’t believe he’s gonna do this.

Audience: (laughs)

Dr. Chapman: Only been married three weeks. Mama said it would be like this.

Audience: (laughs)

Dr. Chapman: And then it didn’t matter whether he went to the game or stayed home, you had a miserable weekend. You remember that weekend? That little experience was like putting a block in a wall between the two of you. But in those days, you were in love, so you got over it. Three or four weeks down the road, you had almost forgotten that little event, but the block was still there. And then there was another event. You remember that one? And another block, and then another, and then another. And many of your friends now who’ve been married for five years are 15 or 25. Many of your friends now have a long wall, high and thick. Only now they don’t have any love feelings. All they have now is hostility, hurt, anger, bitterness, or just apathy. Just stay away from each other, just live and let live. And if you happen to talk to the husband in that marriage about his marriage, and if he opens up at all, I can tell you what he will say about the marriage. He will tell you about the blocks on her side. He will say, “You want to know what I live with. Duh, duh, duh. You want to hear another one? Dah, dah, dah.” And by the time he gets through telling you about all of his wife’s failures, you’re gonna wonder how anybody could ever live with that woman. And if you ever meet his wife, you will be shocked, because she won’t look anything like you thought she would look.

Audience: (laughs)

Dr. Chapman: And if she opens up about the marriage, I can tell you what she will say. She will tell you about the blocks on his side. She will say, “You want to know what I live with? On the day the baby was born, he played go. Want to hear another one? On the day they had my mother’s funeral, he went to the softball game.” And she will continue to tell you about the blocks on his side. And they both have the idea that the problem in this marriage is the other. And the same thing is true in every family relationship. If you talk to parents about their relationship with their children, most parents have the idea that if my children would just, then things would be better. But if you talk to their children, you will get another story. Because children and young people have the idea that if their parents would just wake up, then things would be different at our house. If my mother would just, if my father would… And most of us spend our energy blaming the other family members for the situation that we’re in. Now, when we come to talk about tearing down those walls so that we can begin to rebuild relationships, I want to read you the words of Jesus in Matthew 7, beginning with verse three. The analogy is different, but the message is very clear. Jesus said, “Why do you behold the spec that is in your wife’s eye, but do not consider the beam that is in your own eye? Or how is it that you will say to your husband, let me pull the speck out of your eye and behold, there’s a beam in your own eye. Thou hypocrite. First, cast the beam out of your own eye. And then thou shall see clearly to cast the spec out thou mates eye.” Have you ever read that? I put in the word husband, wife, and mate, okay? It says brother, but the principle applies in a marriage as well as in all other relationships. Jesus said, if you want to improve a relationship, the place you start is by getting the beam out of your own eye. To use my analogy, tearing the wall down on your side, not on their side. Now, folks, it’s terribly easy for me to say that, but it is not easy to do that. By nature, that’s not the way we operate. For example, I often when couples come to see me after we’ve talked a bit, I will say to them, I tell you what I’d like to do. I’d like to give each of you a sheet of paper, and I want to put you in a, in separate rooms for 10 minutes. And I would like for you to make me a list of all the things that are wrong with your spouse. Okay. Just tell me all of their failures in this marriage. Okay. And they usually are rather eager to do that. Oh, they like that assignment. And they will sit down, and they will begin writing and they will write and write and write and write and write. And when I bring them back at the end of 10 minutes, most of them are still writing when I go get them. In fact, one lady said to me, before she ever left the room, she said, I’ll tell you right now, it’ll take more paper than that. And I bring them back and I read their list silently. And when I get through reading their list, I say to them, you know, this is good. You all, uh, have done a good job. This shows a lot of insight. And it does. It shows all those things that are between the two of them. But I say, before we work on these, I would like for you to go back, and this time I would like for you to make me a list of all the things that are wrong with you. Just tell me your failures in this marriage. Okay. Do you know they will sit down, and most people can think of one right away? They call it their besetting sin. So they write it down, number one. Well, now I, I do lose my temper once in a while. Or whatever it is, they’ll write it down. But I have seen folks sit there and sit there and sit there trying to think of number two, and seldom has anyone ever come back to my office with more than four things on his or her list. 27 things wrong with his wife, but he only has four on his list. In fact, one lady came back after 10 minutes, her paper was blank.

Audience: (laughs)

Dr. Chapman: And she said, Dr. Chapman, I know you’re not gonna believe this

Audience: (laughs)

Dr. Chapman: She said, but I honestly can’t think of a thing I’m doing wrong. And I didn’t say anything because I didn’t know what to say. I’d never met a perfect woman before.

Audience: (laughs)

Dr. Chapman: And after 30 seconds of silence, she said, well, now if he were here, I’ll know what he would say. And I said, what’s that? She said, “Well, he would say that I’m failing in the sexual area.” And again, I didn’t say anything because I didn’t know what to say. And 30 seconds later, she said, “Well, he’s probably right about that, but that’s all I can think of.” Well, I didn’t clobber her on the head, but if I that’s all she could think of that’s pretty big in a marriage. And don’t ever forget God instituted the sexual part of the marriage as well as the rest of it. You see, it’s not easy to behold the beam in our own eye. It’s much easier to see the things that are wrong with them than to see the things that are wrong with me.

John: You’re listening to Dr. Gary Chapman today on Focus on the Family and you can get his book, The Five Apology Languages when you make a donation of any amount to the ministry of Focus on the Family. When you do that, we’ll include a free audio download of his entire presentation. Donate today and request those at or call us for details. 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY, 800-232-6459. Let’s go ahead and return now to more on Focus on the Family from Dr. Gary Chapman.

Dr. Chapman: So I wanna give you three steps on how to get the beam out of your eye, or how to tear the wall down on your side. Number one, identify your own failures. Identify your own failures. We’ve gotta get them on the front burner. Now, how do you do that? I suggest prayer. Prayer. Psalm 139 verses 23-24 is a good example. David said, “Search me, oh God and know my heart. Try me and know my thoughts and see if there’s any wicked way in me.” That’s about as straightforward as you can get. Lord shine your spotlight on me and show me where I am failing in this relationship. Now, folks, if you will sincerely pray that prayer, get your pencil ready, because God will answer that prayer. He will pour it out to you. Now, he will not give you all of your failures on the same night that would kill you,

Audience: (laughs)

Dr. Chapman: but he will give you enough that you can begin to tear the wall down on your side. We’ve got to first identify, where am I failing in this marriage? And it doesn’t take God a long time to get right to the point with you. I mean, he will bring back to you all those verses you have memorized about be ye kind one to another, and he will remind you of what happened last night, and you’ll have to say I was not kind. And he will bring that word to you, tender hearted, and you will have to say I was not tender-hearted yesterday. I was harsh and cold and bitter and cruel and mean. And he will bring to you that word forgiving one another. And you will have to say, oh God, I have not forgiven him. I bring it up every third day. And he will bring to your mind all the promises that you’ve made, that you never kept. Ooh, I promise to paint the bedroom four years ago. Still not painted, no wonder the woman’s mad. And he’ll bring to your mind all the failures that in your own life. You must first of all identify them, and God is the best source to identify them because God knows the truth about you, and God knows the truth about me. Second step. We confess those things to God. Confession to God. 1st John 1:9 is not a verse simply to be memorized. “If we confess our sins,” please notice the word is in the plural. “If we confess our sins, God is fateful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Now the word confession, as you know means, literally to agree with. If I hold up this book and I say to you, this is a Bible. And if you come down and look at this book, and then you say to me, “You know, you’re right. That is a Bible.” You have confessed that this is a Bible. You have agreed with me. Now, when we confess our sins to God, I think it means we agree with God on at least three things. We agree that it is wrong. Now, by nature, we don’t do that. By nature, we excuse our wrongs based on their wrongs. We say such things as, well, how do you expect me to act when she treats me that way? How would you act if your wife treated you that way? And we excuse our sin based on her sin. No, no, no, no, no. Confession says, Lord, the way I treated her last night is wrong. The way I have ignored her for three days is wrong, let alone what she did. That’s her problem. But the way I have responded to her is wrong. Confession agrees that it is wrong. Secondly, confession agrees that Christ has paid the penalty. That Christ has paid the penalty. The central theme of the Bible is that on the cross, Christ paid the full penalty for our sins. Now, folks, I must confess to you. I still do not fully understand the cross. But the Bible is very clear, from God’s perspective, Christ took our full penalty, our full punishment for our sins. And confession says, Lord, I thank you that Christ has paid for these sins. And thirdly, confession agrees to accept forgiveness. To accept forgiveness. God does not want you depressed for three months because you sinned against your spouse. He wants you to accept his forgiveness, get up, move on, do something good today. So confession involves at least those three things. There is a third step, and this is where many of us fail. It is found in Acts 24:16. I believe this is the most powerful verse in the New Testament on mental health. Consequently, it greatly affects marital and family health. Will you listen to these words? Paul is talking about himself. Acts 24:16. “In this do I exercise myself,” the word exercise is the Greek word, gymnazo, from which we get our word gymnasium. Good translation, exercise. Could also be translated discipline. In this do I discipline myself. Now listen carefully. “To have always a conscience void of offense toward God and toward men.” Paul says, I am committed to living with an empty conscience toward God and toward men. Nothing is more fundamental to mental health, let alone spiritual health, than living with an empty conscience. May I picture for you the conscience as being a five-gallon container strapped to my back, that’s my conscience. And every time I sin against my wife or anyone else, it’s like pouring a gallon of liquid into my conscience. And three or four sins, and my conscience is getting full, and I am getting heavy. And you ask me how I’m doing, and I will likely say, “Not too well,” because I remember yesterday, I remember last night, I remember what I did or didn’t do. I’m not feeling well. My conscience is full, and I am heavy. Now Paul says, “I’m committed to living with an empty conscience toward God and toward men.” Now, how do we get an empty conscience toward God? By confession to God, we’ve just talked about it. How do I get an empty conscience toward men? By confession to the person I sinned against. And that’s the third step confession to the other person. Confession to the other person. If I really want to tear the wall down, it is not enough to seek God’s forgiveness. I must seek forgiveness of the family member against whom I have sinned. So what are we suggesting to people who want to improve family relationships? We are suggesting that the place to start is by tearing the wall down on your side. We are suggesting that people get alone with God and say to God, “Lord, where am I failing in this relationship?” And as God brings their failures to mind, they confess those things to God and accept God’s forgiveness. Then they go to their spouse, and they say to them, “Have you got a few minutes? I’ve been thinking about us, and I know I’ve been on your case, but I have realized that you are not all of our problem. In fact, the other night I sat down and asked God to show me where I have been failing you. And He gave me a pretty good list. And if you’ve got a few minutes, I’d like to read this to you, and I would like to ask you to forgive me.” Now you share that idea with people, which is exactly what Jesus said we’re supposed to do. You share that idea with people, and they will ask you questions such as, one lady said, “Dr. Chapman, I understand the principle,” but she said, “I don’t think you quite understand my situation.” She said, “What if your husband really is the problem? How’s that gonna help?” And I said, “Well, let’s assume for a minute that your husband is 95% of the problem. Now that only leaves 5% for you. Now you wouldn’t say that you’re perfect.” Oh, no. She said, “No one’s perfect.” You know, everybody agrees to that no one’s perfect. Well, if we are not perfect, we’re imperfect, right? So let’s just say you’re only 5% imperfect and he’s 95. What I’m saying is if you want to improve a relationship, the place for you to start is by tearing the 5% down on your side. The wall is not as thick now, because you’ve removed your side. People will also say, “You know, but if I go do that, how do you think my spouse will respond?” And my answer is, I don’t know, maybe your spouse, if you go do that, we’ll say to you, “I don’t wanna hear you lousy list. Get out here.” Or maybe your spouse will listen to you read your list and say, “You forgot a few.”

Audience: (laughs)

Dr. Chapman: Or maybe your spouse will actually forgive you. Who knows? Maybe they will even forgive you. But you are doing the first and most important thing that Jesus taught, you are tearing the wall down on your side. What if they don’t forgive you? You’ve still torn the wall down. All we can ever do with past failures, or at least the best thing we can do with past failures is to confess them and ask forgiveness. We can’t erase them, but we can confess them and request forgiveness of our spouse. Maybe they forgive, maybe they don’t forgive. If they forgive, wonderful. Will they come back in three weeks and confess their sins? I don’t know. That would be nice, wouldn’t it? Maybe if you loan them the tape, they’ll listen to the tape and maybe they’ll do it. Who knows? I don’t know what they’ll do. But I’m saying that if we’re going to tear walls down, we’ve got to start on our side. Now let’s assume for a minute that you do that, and let’s assume for a moment that your spouse forgives you and, and let’s assume that they even come back in three weeks and ask you to forgive them. And now the wall is torn down on both sides. May I suggest to you that you will still need to follow this principle as long as you live, so that the wall does not get erected again. Let me suggest that in a healthy marriage, we will still have to use this principle of confessing to God and confessing to the other person and asking forgiveness.

John: What a good place to close today’s episode of Focus on the Family with our guest speaker, Dr. Gary Chapman, the author of the book, The Five Apology Languages.

Jim: And we’ll hear his conclusion next time, it’s so helpful. And you know what? This is a great message for married couples to listen to regularly. Uh, maybe once a year, to remind themselves of these valuable principles and to work at keeping their side of the wall torn down, to use Gary’s analogy. Uh, in fact, the last time we aired this message, uh, we received this note from Kim. She said, “I heard today’s message on forgiveness, and it changed the way I was going to talk to my husband about an issue we needed to resolve. I didn’t wanna hear that my way was wrong, but I’m so glad I did. Thank you, Focus on the Family.”

John: Kind of sounds like, uh, she was ready to go in kind of hot and then stepped back because of the broadcast.

Jim: Well, and I’m so glad we could help, and we want to help all the couples we can have a better marriage. Let me just add this advice is for marriages that are in decent shape. If you’re in an abusive situation, we urge you to get to a place of safety for yourself and for your children. Keep that location secret and then pursue counseling for everyone involved.

John: Well, that’s a good point, Jim.

Jim: Sadly, this is the case for some marriages. Uh, let me also add, if your marriage is in dire straits, please contact us for information about our Hope Restored four-day intensives. Uh, many couples who attend Hope Restored have already filed divorce papers, but they find hope and healing. In fact, when we survey couples two years after their visit, over 80% say their marriage is doing well. And you know, in the last 12 months, over 350,000 couples said that Focus on the Family has helped strengthen their marriage, and we are able to do that through support of listeners like you. So thank you for giving. And if you haven’t made a donation, let me just ask you to consider how Focus on the Family has impacted your life, and then give as the Lord lead you. The best way to help us is making a monthly pledge. It doesn’t have to be a large amount. It’s the consistency that really helps us out and evens the budget for the entire year. And when you make a monthly pledge of any amount, we’ll send you a copy of Dr. Chapman’s book, The Five Apology Languages, which has a lot more detail than we’re able to share on the radio program. And if you can’t make a monthly pledge, uh, commitment right now, we understand. We’ll send the book to you, uh, for a one-time gift as well. Just get in touch with us today.

John: You can reach us when you call 800 A FAMILY (800) 232-6459 or donate online and request your copy of The Five Apology Languages at And when you get the book from us here at the ministry, we’ll include a free audio download of Dr. Chapman’s entire presentation. Next time more on the forgiveness process from Dr. Gary Chapman.

Dr. Chapman: Folks, when you have sinned, you don’t wanna see people. You want to do what Adam and Eve did in the garden, get you a bush and hide behind it, and hope God won’t see you.

Audience: (laughs)

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The 5 Apology Languages: The Secret to Healthy Relationships

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